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07:03 – PDA Bulletin – ’08 Defense Budget & End Strength Boost Get Poor Grades

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  • Charles Knight
    Experts give poor grades to expected 08 defense budget by Bipasha Ray, Project on Defense Alternatives from Defense Analysis Bulletin #2, 01 February 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2007
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      "Experts give poor grades to expected '08 defense budget"
      by Bipasha Ray, Project on Defense Alternatives
      from Defense Analysis Bulletin #2, 01 February 2007


      Washington, DC -- The expected $470 billion defense budget for fiscal
      2008 to be released Feb. 5 will fall short of requirements, yet
      continue to be packed with pork despite recent reforms, according to
      defense experts at a briefing on Thursday.

      In the FY 2008 Defense Budget Report Card
      ( http://www.comw.org/pda/0701dab2.html#reportcard ) released by the
      Security Policy Working Group, four analysts gave the government low
      and failing grades on every criterion except for an "A+" in
      advertising -- for the Pentagon managing to convince Congress that the
      world's largest defense budget is too small.

      "We have the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, but we are
      losing to an opponent in Iraq that spends less over an entire year
      than what we spend in one day" on defense -- more than $1 billion,
      said Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information.
      ( http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0701wheeler.ppt )

      He gave Congress an "F" for "total failure to reform" despite all its
      talk of reform. Congress exempted the defense budget from earmark
      reforms, he said, and actually ensured "free advertising for porkers"
      by letting the authors give the required explanations for earmarks,
      rather than objective bodies such as the Government Accountability
      Office or the Congressional Budget Office.

      The other experts -- Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense
      Alternatives, Steve Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary
      Assessments and Cindy Williams of MIT's Security Studies Program --
      said that, judging from the past, they expected the emergency
      supplemental requests for the global war on terror to incorporate
      numerous items not directly related to war, including modernization
      and transformation, that actually belong in the Pentagon's baseline

      The baseline Defense Department budget is expected to be $470 billion.
      With supplementals added on for the war on terrorism including Iraq
      and Afghanistan as well as other weapons expenses, the total military
      spending budget is expected to be $610 billion.

      "Both the administration and the armed services have incentive to put
      things in the requests for GWOT funding, whether it is related to war
      or not. It sounds better politically, it has that emergency ring to
      it," Kosiak said. "If you can attach something to a bill that deals
      with troop pay and armor, it will have smoother sailing."
      ( http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0701kosiak.pdf )

      At the same time, the administration is being unrealistic in its
      projection of defense spending and its budget will probably fail to
      acknowledge $30 billion worth of war costs and support of military and
      personnel -- which will contribute to a $1 trillion cumulative gap in
      the Future Years Defense Program for 2008 to 2013, Williams said.

      "The Defense Department has a history of pushing substantial amounts
      of realistic expenses off to the future, hoping that it will figure
      out how to deal with it later. This is not a good idea at a time when
      the baby boomers are preparing to retire, federal deficits are high
      and debt is mounting," Williams said. "By not recognizing the costs,
      we're making decisions today that will lead to expenses in the future,
      but we're not planning how we'll pay them."

      A realistic defense budget -- 5 percent of GDP, rather than the
      expected proposal of 4 percent -- would not be affordable given
      America's current level of debt and looming costs of Medicare and
      Social Security, Williams said. However, the government needs to
      acknowledge the missing $1 trillion on its 5-year budget before the
      country can decide how it's going to pay for it -- whether by raising
      taxes, cutting back on retirement benefits or borrowing more, she
      added. ( http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0701williams.doc )

      She also criticized the government's lack of transparency in releasing
      the true war costs, which leaves analysts and congressional oversight
      committees "working in the dark."

      Conetta, who just released a report, "No Good Reason to Boost Army,
      Marine Corps End Strength," said that the proposed addition of 92,000
      personnel would do nothing to solve the more immediate problems of
      troop readiness and shortages that the United States is facing in Iraq
      and Afghanistan. ( http://www.comw.org/pda/0701br20.html )

      "These initiatives would only bear fruit in 2009 at the earliest and
      they only make sense if we intend to stay in Iraq for years to come,"
      he said, adding that the government has learned the wrong lessons from
      Iraq and it is taking the country down the wrong path of "coercive
      nation-building and regime change."

      "Just as the troop surge [in Iraq] is an alternative to seeking a
      diplomatic solution, this proposed addition to end strength is a
      counter point to a new direction," he said. "We need to engage the
      lessons of Iraq. Trying to positively transform foreign societies by
      outside military intervention hasn't worked before and won't work now."

      You can get email notification of each issue of the PDA Defense
      Analysis Bulletin by signing up for Feed Blitz notification of PDA
      Updates at the upper left corner of PDA's homepage –

      "No Good Reason to 'Grow' the US Army and Marine Corps"
      by Carl Conetta

      President Bush's proposal to add 92,000 troops to the Army and Marine
      Corps has a degree of bipartisan appeal. Advocates may believe that
      America's troubles in Iraq provide reason enough to "grow" the Army
      and Marine Corps. But this view misconstrues both the lessons of that
      war and America's true security needs.

      What has been lacking in recent years is strategic wisdom, not
      military personnel. Any perceived shortfall in the latter derives from
      the former. It would be better to correct the error, than feed it more
      boots. Indeed, correcting it would obviate any apparent need to boost
      Army and Marine Corps end strength.

      Certainly, boosting the Army and Marine Corps has a political utility
      for the President and his opponents, alike. But no one seriously
      contends that the initiative will relieve the stress of current Iraq
      deployments. Nor will it ease the strain of shipping additional troops
      to that country, as the President proposes. This, because any
      additions to Army and Marine Corps end strength must come in small
      increments, and it takes time to build new units. There will be no
      significant effect at all before 2009.

      Looking down the road: the proposed additions to end strength will
      combine with other initiatives to dramatically increase America's
      capacity to sustain protracted ground operations overseas. The other
      relevant initiatives include the administration's Integrated Global
      Presence and Basing Strategy and various reforms aiming to increase
      the proportion of military personnel available for operational duties.
      Taken together these efforts eventually would allow the United States
      to comfortably deploy on a continuous basis more than 100,000 ground
      troops outside Europe, Japan, and Korea – while the latter locations
      absorb more than another 60,000 troops.

      There is no manifest need for such a capability unless: (1) The United
      States maintains a large contingent of troops inside Iraq
      indefinitely, or (2) the nation aims to routinely and continuously
      involve 100,000 or more ground troops in regime change, foreign
      occupation, "nation-building", counter-insurgency, and/or stability

      The prospect of a long-term US troop presence in Iraq is not an idle
      one. Although proposals for beginning withdrawal have now become
      commonplace in Congress, few advocates talk about total withdrawal
      anytime soon – if at all.

      Increasing Army and Marine Corps end strength will enable the United
      States to "stay the course" charted by the Bush administration in Iraq
      and elsewhere – indefinitely. Much as the proposed Iraq "troop surge"
      serves to counter a diplomatic solution to the Iraqi impasse, the
      proposed increase in Army and Marine Corps end strength serves as an
      alternative to setting a new course at the level of national security

      Is "not enough boots on the ground" the chief lesson to learn from the
      Iraq debacle? A more critical view is that the administration's chief
      failure resides not at the level of war planning, but at the level of
      national security strategy. The failure involves misapplying and
      over-relying on military instruments. It rests on the mistaken belief
      that the type of enterprise represented by the Iraq war – forceful
      regime change and coercive nation-building – is necessary to our
      security and practicable. This belief is a fount of unrealistic goals
      and impossible missions.

      Minimally, the nation and its armed forces deserve an open and
      thorough debate on the strategic lessons of the Iraq misadventure
      before we start ramping up the nation's capacity to put more boots on
      the ground worldwide. To foreclose this debate for reasons of
      political expediency is to add insult to tragedy.
      Carl Conetta is co-director of the Project on Defense
      Alternatives(PDA). More details of the troop buildup and the
      analytical basis of this piece can be found in PDA Briefing Report #20
      -- http://www.comw.org/pda/0701br20.html
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